Life Cycles

As Jews we inherit a rich tradition of rituals marking significant transitions in our lives. Additionally, we have the opportunity to create new ritual appropriate to our individual lives. TBH encourages our congregants to work with our Rabbi in developing meaningful life cycle rituals which are mindful of Jewish tradition, affirm a Jewish identity and ensure Jewish continuity.

Communal acknowledgment, celebration and support of life cycle events is a value at TBH. All TBH members are encouraged to join in celebration of our B’nai Mitzvah, to join in a shiva minyan in marking a loss, to support those undergoing divorce, to share their life milestones through announcements and public recognition and to seek opportunities to commemorate life-cycle events.

TBH policy governs the congregational requirements for celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and the guidelines for use of our cemeteries. The paragraphs below describe our communal minhagim, and the form and tenor of individual life cycle events is under the discretion of the Rabbi.

Birth: Judaism marks the blessing of new life and family with ritual. When we welcome children into our lives, either through birth or adoption, we also welcome them into the covenant of the Jewish people and our Jewish community. Traditionally, boys are welcomed into the covenant through the rite of brit milah (circumcision). Parallel covenanting ceremonies to welcome girls are newer to Jewish practice. We affirm the use of appropriate covenanting ritual for both boys and girls.

Bar or Bat Mitzvah: While age alone marks Jewish maturity, Jewish tradition has seen fit to ritually mark the coming of age of Jewish youth through ceremony and celebration. It is a joy when a child reared in our community stands in front of it to demonstrate his or her knowledge and ability to carry on the tradition. At TBH we expect our youth to demonstrate proficiency in the leading of prayer, the reading and interpretation of Torah, and commitment to tzedakah (charitable giving) and tikkun olam (repair of the world). All are encouraged to attend Shabbat services, especially when we celebrate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

Marriage/Kiddushin: TBH celebrates the marriage of couples, regardless of sexual orientation, through the use of meaningful and appropriate Jewish ritual. (When both partners are Jewish, Jewish marriage ritual is called kiddushin.)  From the early stories in our Torah, in which Adam and Eve are described as ezer kinego (“helpmate”) to each other, Judaism has valued loving relationships. The ability to sanctify and celebrate these relationships through prayer and ritual is a part of Jewish practice. In addition, marking a couple’s union with Jewish ritual is an important step Ketubah signingin the creation of a Jewish home and the framework for passing Judaism to the next generation through the family. We also encourage the public recognition of marriage through auf ruf (aliyah to the Torah for the soon-to-be-married) or similar ritual. While it is the Rabbi’s prerogative to choose whether to officiate at the marriage of individual couples, both wholly Jewish and inter-faith couples are welcome at TBH.  Non-Jewish spouses are encouraged to participate as fully as appropriate in all TBH activities and in the support of Jewish home life and continuity.

Divorce: An unfortunate but accepted reality within Jewish tradition, divorce is marked by ritual as well through the giving of a get, a Jewish divorce document. Traditionally a document given by a man to his wife required for her remarriage, liberal Judaism has made the get process egalitarian and optional. Members who are undergoing divorce are encouraged to explore ways of ritually marking this transition.

Conversion: Judaism has always maintained the ability to join the covenant by choice, and TBH welcomes those who are exploring Jewish identity and community. Through a period of study and engagement in community, followed by the appropriate ritual, one may undergo the process to become Jewish. Those interested in conversion should meet with the Rabbi and are encouraged to engage with our community in meaningful ways.

Adult Bar or Bat Mitzvah: Adult Jews who did not celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah at the traditional age of maturity are not excluded from full participation in Jewish life. Still, while age alone marks Jewish maturity, the value of ritual on Jewish identity is powerful. Those whose life paths at the traditional age of maturity did not include a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony are welcome to explore means of ritually affirming one’s adult Jewish identity through becoming an adult Bar or Bat Mitzvah. The adult ceremony is based on the traditional bar and bat mitzvah ritual individualized to meet the needs of person celebrating it. In addition, celebration of the anniversary of one’s bar or bat mitzvah is also welcomed.

Death and Mourning: Jewish ritual around death and mourning is vast, and we encourage members to explore the rich tapestry of Jewish tradition to find meaningful Jewish ways to mourn. TBH supports a Chevre Kadisha (burial society) which works with local funeral homes to carry out the Jewish traditions of death and burial, and maintains two cemeteries for use. We encourage communal support of mourners through attendance at funerals and shiva minyanim (prayer gatherings for mourners). We encourage those whose primary mourning happened out of the local community to have a minyan or similar ritual in our local community. TBH also sends out Yartzeit (anniversary of a death) reminders to its membership.